A step-by-step guide to removing your car from storage

If your classic car has been in storage for a few months, or a couple of years, there are a few things you must tend to before taking it for a spin.

  • Start with a visual inspection underneath the vehicle to see if it has been leaking any fluids. Spots on the floor may indicate that a fluid has been leaking. A coolant leak would typically be green, unless the vehicle has a newer coolant that comes in a few different colors. A transmission leak or power-steering leak typically would show red fluid, brake fluid may look like dirty water and a differential leak would be a dark-colored fluid.
  • We recommend changing most fluids before driving. An oil and filter change is mandatory, and changing the brake fluid is a great idea to ensure the brake system functions properly. Draining, flushing and refilling the coolant system should also be completed. Transmission, differential and power steering fluid can usually go about three years before needing to be changed, unless the vehicle is a new acquisition “barn find,” in which case all fluids should be changed. If you didn’t used a product such as Stabil in the gas tank prior to storing the car, empty the tank and fill it with fresh gasoline. Dispose of any old fluids at a reclaiming center.
  • Before attempting to start your car, check the battery. Hopefully you kept it out of the cold, and preferably on a trickle charger. Test your battery for voltage, and make sure it shows six or 12 volts, depending on your charging system. If the battery has not been stored properly, or fails to hold a charge, you must replace it. Now would also be a good time to check your cables for corrosion and clean them if necessary.
  • A good way to prepare an engine for storage is to use a fogging oil in the cylinders by taking the spark plugs out and spraying the chemical into the cylinders. This ensures that the bores will not rust, and the rings will keep their tension. If you did not perform this procedure before storage, remove the spark plugs and pour some oil in the cylinders and let it sit for a few days. This will ensure your cylinders are lubricated for the first firing of the engine. This also is a great opportunity to replace the spark plugs. There are tools available for many engines to spin the oil pump before starting, which will put the fresh oil to all of the bearing surfaces, and this is recommended if a tool is available for your engine.
  • Now it’s time to start your baby. Remove the air cleaner assembly, and pour some gas into the throat of the carburetor. A cap from a spray can that is filled halfway with gasoline should be sufficient. If the engine is carbureted, simply depress the throttle pedal to set the choke. If injected, turn the key and let the pump prime for 30 seconds. If the car starts immediately, let it idle until it gets up to temperature. Replace the air cleaner assembly, check the transmission fluid level if it’s an automatic, and check for leaks or odd noises. If your engine is ticking, a valve adjustment may be in order. At this time, inspect the engine compartment. Check the hoses to make sure they are still pliable, but not spongy. Tighten or replace any belts that are questionable.
  • Place the vehicle on a lift or jack stands and grease all of the chassis points that have a zirk fitting. You can never be too safe in your shop, and having friend’s help is a good idea in case of an emergency. Check steering components, exhaust condition, etc. Make sure that everything is intact and appears as it should. If you have drum brakes, remove the drums, inspect the linings, grease the hubs then adjust the brakes to manufacturers specifications.
  • Before a test drive, pull it outside and give the vehicle a thorough washing and detail. This gives you a chance to check the body for any new blemishes or rust, or repairs that may be failing. Vacuum the interior, and utilize your favorite protectant on the upholstery.
  • Before pulling out of the driveway, have a helper check the exterior lights for you. Make sure the headlights, brake lights, turn signals and flashers are operable. Safety first!
  • You now are ready for the first trip of the season. Bring your cell phone and a fire extinguisher just in case. (You should have a high-quality fire extinguisher in the vehicle anyway.) Drive around town for a half hour or so, watching the gauges the entire time. Pay attention to any noises, hesitation, rattles or anything out of the ordinary. Make a note, as you will want to check these issues when you return home.
  • Once home, recheck your fluid levels and repair any issues that you may have found.
  • Expect for this work to take you a few days depending on your schedule. If this routine does not fit your schedule or abilities, seek out professional help from a reputable repair shop that specializes in collector cars. There is a lot of work required to keep a classic vehicle in tip-top condition, but the payoff is always rewarding. The preventative maintenance you performed may save you from breaking down, and helps to maintain the vehicles value. Make sure to always keep a notebook on every collector vehicle you own, and pictures are a good way to document the work you have completed.

Hope that this gets you closer to enjoying your vehicles this summer. Find some motivation, and get to work! Happy motoring!

Charlie Marek
Route 66 Motorsports
215 Ford Dr.
New Lenox, IL 60451


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